Paul Routledge reveals a secret meeting

Labour MPs' secret tryst with firefighters, a hacks' quarrel, and the vanishing socialist

The firefighters' dispute is the cause of much coming and going at Westminster. The day after both sides went to Acas, leaders of the Fire Brigades Union came in for secret discussions with the Parliamentary Labour Party trade union group. The group's chairman, Tony Lloyd (Graphical North), refused to say anything, but we may assume it was a much-needed fence-mending exercise. Ian McCartney, the minister assigned by No 10 to act as a go-between, was busily ingratiating himself with the union, having previously accused its leader, Andy Gilchrist, of "losing the plot". And friendly noises, too, from John Prescott. When Ken Cameron, the former FBU leader, came into Strangers' Bar for a quick snort, the DPM (as he loves to be known) was soon on the terrace with him, exchanging Anglo-Saxon pleasantries.

Greg Pope, an ex-whip, was loud in his support of the strikers, visiting a picket line in his Hyndburn constituency. "I certainly understand why they are on strike," he harrumphed. "I worry that some people in government want the scalp of a trade union that they can parade in front of Daily Mail readers." Is this the same Greg Pope who, as the TUC met in September, condemned the FBU's pay claim as "unreasonable" and told union leaders to "grow up"?

It's the time of year when the misspent youth of MPs is exposed in Annie's Bar, spiritual home of this column. In the annual charity pool tournament, I have already lost to Gerry Sutcliffe MP, Keeper of the Queen's Trouser Press (perhaps that should read Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household). Tony Blair will play Andrew Miller MP. My money is on Jim, barman at the sports and social club, for overall winner.

Alarums and excursions in the parliamentary press gallery, where the Telegraph's Ben Brogan has quit as secretary. Brogan, an arch-moderniser, dragged the gallery into the 20th century. When members made the septuagenarian Chris Moncrieff the new chairman, it was too much for the prematurely silver-haired toff, who walked out, taking the outgoing chairman with him. Expect further unpleasantness in 2003, the gallery's bicentenary year.

Following the most fiercely contested election since, well, since the last one, Chris Bryant, the gay ex-preacher who is MP for Rhondda, is chairman of the Labour Movement for Europe. He beat the ex-Foreign Office minister Joyce Quin. Why Quin wanted the job is a mystery: she is stepping down at the next election in the hope of becoming First Geordie in a North-East Assembly. Perhaps she wanted to keep up her profile - unlike her successor at the FCO, Denis MacShane, who is keeping his head down after a particularly emotional performance at the despatch box.

To Portcullis House for a staging of Our Victor, a new play about the vanishing MP Victor Grayson by Richard Povall, of Mikron Theatre. Grayson's parliamentary career lasted three years; Lenin called him "a fiery socialist, without any principles and given to mere phrases". Like many of his ilk, he fell into disillusionment and alcoholism. As Lord (David) Clark recounts in his biography, Grayson left his Piccadilly flat in 1920 and was never seen again.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror